Longtime Lee County baseball coach Rob Williams, left, accepts a plaque for his 500th career win from Lee County Dugout Club President Jim Glass, right, as Colquitt County head coach and Williams’ former boss and mentor, Jerry Croft, looks on. Croft gave Williams his first coaching job as an assistant with the Packers before Williams took over at Lee in 1989. (email@example.com)
LEESBURG — After scoring 41 runs in four games to open the season, Tift County’s pitching put a muzzle on Lee County’s bats Friday.
Blue Devils’ senior starter Alex Conway allowed just one unearned run in a complete-game effort en route to a 4-1 win against the Trojans, handing Lee County its first loss of the season.
“When you have more errors than base hits, it’s going to be hard to win,” said Trojans head coach Rob Williams, who was honored before and after the game for reaching his 500th career victory in the season opener last Friday during a 15-0 win against Westover. “We weren’t good in any facet of the game — any of us, including coaches.”
Williams, whose career record is 503-179 in 24 seasons as head coach at Lee County, was joined Friday during a pregame ceremony by his former boss, long-time Colquitt County head coach Jerry Croft, who Williams served as an assistant under for eight years before coming to Lee County in 1989. Croft won 449 games in Moultrie in 30 seasons and joined Williams in the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame this year.
“Somebody taught him well,” Croft joked before the game.
Four Lee County errors and Conway’s mix of pitches spoiled the party somewhat Friday. The Trojans managed just three hits off Tift’s righthander, who threw 98 pitches and struck out 10, while walking two.
Matt Mears scored the only Lee County run on a throwing error by Conway, who tried to throw to third to get Mears out on Luke Roland’s sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning. Pinch runner Casey Hightower was thrown out at third on the play after overrunning the base and the Trojans’ rally never materialized.
“(Conway) was one of our top pitchers as a sophomore and got hurt (back surgery),” Tift County head coach Chuck Beale said. “He pitched a good game (Friday).”
Tift County (3-2) took a 1-0 lead in the first off Trojans starter Chris Mosley on Nick Utley’s RBI single. Mosley was pulled in the third after his defense made two errors and allowed three runs, two scoring on a potential double-play ball that was thrown away on the relay to first.
Mosley took the loss in just his second varsity start after missing last season, allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits in 2 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out three and walked three.
“(Mosley) didn’t get to pitch at all last year, so he’s got to get his feet wet again,” Williams said. “We got to see some other kids get in the fire a little bit, so when we get into region they’ve been there.”
Sophomore T.J. Roberts, the only underclassman on the varsity roster, was superb in three innings of work. He allowed no runs and three hits, while striking out two. Senior Daniel Nichols pitched a final scoreless inning and went 2-for-3 at the plate with two singles. Mark Fowler had the other Trojans hit.
Drew Davis went 3-for-3 to lead Tift County. Conway added an RBI hit in the win for the Blue Devils, who didn’t mind putting a stop to the Trojans’ early-season win streak.
“They’ve got a great program,” Beale said. “They’ve got a great team and we feel like we do, too.”
Lee County has rescheduled today’s game in Tallahassee against Lawton Chiles High School because of expected rain and will make it up Monday at 4 p.m. The Trojans open Region 1-AAAA play at home Friday against Hardaway.